Rachel Taylor has been a Girl Scout for 13 years, and the 17-year-old credits the program for teaching her about responsibility, for honing her leadership skills and for giving her confidence.
As her crowning achievement, and for her Girl Scout Gold Award service project, she is putting together 50 "new home" kits for My Sister's House, a battered women's shelter in Iredell County. So far, she is about half way toward reaching her goal, and donations will be accepted through June 15.
Stacy Root, the shelter's manager, said the shelter serves about 20 to 35 women and children a month and provides counseling, as well as parenting, domestic violence and substance abuse support groups.
"When the women come in here, a lot of them have to start all over again and they have nothing," Root said. "We do get a lot of donations to help them start over, but her idea to make them something for when they leave here will be a blessing to the women who leave My Sister's House and start life in their new home."
The Mooresville High School senior came up with the idea for her project while visiting the shelter with her mom and troop leader, Susan, who was donating Mary Kay products.
Susan has been the leader of Troop 51 since it started. Of the 20 girls who joined the troop, only four have stuck with it, and two are in the process of earning the Gold Award. In order to earn the award, Girl Scouts must put in at least 65 hours of work.
The fact that Rachel's two older brothers earned their Eagle Scout Awards - the equivalent of the Gold Award - is an underlying reason she is pursuing this project with such determination. But her main reason for organizing it is more personal.
"There are people that get abused and they need a lot of help," she said. "I knew it was a problem, but I never knew it was such a big problem. Probably one of the biggest reasons I did it is because I knew someone who'd gone through it."
Rachel has been collecting various housewares since November, and she's even garnered some corporate donations from Family Dollar and Bed, Bath and Beyond. St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Mooresville also donated 100 copies of its annual cookbook.
But even if she doesn't reach her personal goal of 50 baskets, she believes her project will still make a difference.
"It's exciting to know you're making an impact on people's lives," she said.